Development of the Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care into multidisciplinary programs that promise to set new global standards
Dean, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine
The Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care at Hokkaido University is a ten-year national research project that aims at developing an innovative research center through industry-university collaboration. This program is one of the nine programs that passed rigorous screening among the applications accepted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2006. The program produced great achievements in the three years after that year. The results were recognized in the interim assessment conducted at the end of fiscal 2008, and the program was chosen as one of four programs to be continued.
The target for the next seven years is its development into a world-class, self-sustaining program that combines future drug discovery with individually tailored medical therapies utilizing optical technology. It is intended that the program should support the development of human resources as well as practical studies for the application of new drugs and the technological development of diagnostics and therapies.
The program is characterized by the creation of a research and education center where both businesses and the university advance various studies on an equal footing, toward developing new drugs and medical technologies. The work programs for attaining this target are marked by a cooperative framework that has been progressively consolidated. Hokkaido University, having multiple innovative key technologies, is expanding its research system in order to integrate various studies in collaboration with five corporations that have the world's most advanced technologies, toward practical application. The university boasts key leading-edge technologies related to design, synthesis and large-scale analysis of seed compounds, such as carbohydrate derivatives and proteins. Other such key technologies relate to structural analysis, screening, medical imaging (including photo imaging and RI probes), advanced research on PET, and real-time tumor-tracking radiotherapy.
The above-mentioned achievements produced by Hokkaido University in the initial three years of the program are based on cooperation from Shionogi & Co., Ltd., which owns highly advanced fundamental technologies for the development of new drugs, and from Hitachi, Ltd., which is capable of conducting R&D on state-of-the-art equipment. In 2009, this industry-university cooperation was expanded by the participation of Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd., which specializes in arraying technologies, Nihon Medi-Physics Co., Ltd., which has RI labeling technologies and the capability for practical application of radiopharmaceutical agents, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., which has technologies for developing radiotherapeutic devices. It is anticipated that the enhanced research system for the program will help accelerate practical use of R&D results not only in next-generation drug discovery and semiconductor PET but also in the search for target molecules, RI probes, high-precision radiotherapeutic devices and more.
Meanwhile, efforts to develop human resources have been steadily producing results. Researchers from the university and the relevant corporations have been working together in planning and holding various seminars and symposiums where young university and corporate researchers specializing in many different fields have learned earnestly and discussed passionately. It is noteworthy that the Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care at Hokkaido University has helped to reform the research and education system for the benefit of the young researchers who will lead next-generation research and development.
Departments of the Graduate School of Medicine have been cooperating with each other in further advancing the multiple specialties of the research and education center. By generating synergy, the program is expected to serve as an impetus for such advancement. The program is the basis for cutting-edge medical research that integrates drug discovery and advanced medical engineering, as well as for translational research (TR) that drives application of the research results. The outcomes of the program will also be put to practical use through TR performed at Hokkaido University Hospital.
As one of three medical universities in Hokkaido that are promoting TR within the framework of the Hokkaido Organization for Translational Research, the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine intends to fully support studies on "seeds research," on which the program focuses. Over the upcoming four years, the program will surely help qualify Hokkaido University as a world-class research hub that can take initiative in setting global standards for advanced research.